Thursday, July 29
I jumped on the water taxi again and headed South, shooting photos of the picturesque shanty towns that jut out over the banks of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya. (I missed them yesterday because I was on the other side of the boat.) Chips Ahoy! Back on dry land, I dropped off my visa application form and photos at the Myanmar embassy, and the clerk told me to pick them up at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, which was a bummer, because I was hoping to the next day, Friday, so I could book a flight.
Next came a lunch stop back at Krua Aroy-Aroy, where I sipped a bowl of tasty veggie soup, followed by a visit to Sri Mariamman Temple directly across the street. The atmosphere inside this Indian place of Hindu worship was absolutely incredible. A recording of a solo female singer intoning a simple, mesmerizing melody over and over accompanied by the drone of a sitar functioned as the base for a whole cornucopia of sounds: brusque announcements over a bullhorn, motorcycles brapping by, people talking and walking about, shaking cannisters full of incense sticks.
Clouds of flavorful incense smoke wafted throughout the temple as one cluster of devotees after another brought in offerings of food and drink, dropped to their knees and prayed, clasping a handful of sticks and pointing them upward toward their favorite Hindu deities. It was all so entrancing that I recorded a few minutes of audio. I would have shot a little video, but there was a no photos rule, which I surreptitiously broke with a few still pics anyway.
The next form of musical amazent came a little while later while I was sitting and eating dinner at a food stall table. A little lady sauntered up with a small amp strapped to her torso, offering up another round of strange, hypnotic singing. I threw some change in her can and snapped a photo and a short video clip. I saw a lady like her in Yogyakarta, Java, but she disappeared into thin air before I could pay my bill and meet her. I hope to catch the lady here in Bangkok again so I can get a better photo. I recorded one last bit of intense sound from an unlikely source: a squeaky boat dock I discovered as I exited the river taxi. It sounded exactly like someone playing really good free improv on a reed. All told, this was one amazingly musical day.